A Commitment to Literacy

Travel Channel President Pat Younge brings literacy to his staff

Television is a strange industry.

The New York Times is filled with people who aspire to be print journalists; to be writers.

As a result, when you walk into the New York Times, every single person in the building, from the receptionist to the publisher knows how to read and write. They also have a word processing machine on their desktop. If they get an idea, they are encouraged to write. Adam Liptak, corporate lawyer for the paper often also reports on legal matters for the paper. It is a hive of literacy and creativity.

If you walk into a TV network, however, it is more akin to walking into an insurance company.

Row after row of cubicles and flourescent lighting. Industrial carpeting.

And most remarkably, a staff that by and large are both illiterate in the medium in which they are working, and also denied access to the tools of creativity.

Walk around your network offices. How many people do you see? Now, how many cameras are around. These, by the way, are the tools that we make video with. How many edit systems on people’s desk top computers.

And now, the most critical question: how many people on staff are video literate? That is, how many people on staff are capable of shooting, editing and producing a video told story?

It’s a strange business that attracts people who want to work in this industry, and then keeps them both functionally illiterate and denies them access to the tools of creativity.

At The Travel Channel, President and CEO Pat Younge is making a difference.

He is committed to making every employee of the network, from secretaries to IT people to marketing to producers (shocking but true) completely literate in the making of video; in video story-telling.

That, after all, is their business.

This might seem common sense, but in the TV business, to my knowledge, he is the only person who has committed to empowering and educating his staff in this way.



10 responses to “A Commitment to Literacy

  1. everyone learns video? Like the clerical staff, the cleaning staff, the accountants?

    That does sound very evangelical.

  2. Yes. Everyone.
    Accountants included.
    (I am pretty sure the cleaning is done by the building and is outsourced). but yes, the clerical staff also.
    Does this seem so strange that everyone who works in a TV networks should be literate in the medium of video? Don’t we naturally expect everyone who works in a magazine or a newspaper be able to read in write ,in fact have a passion or an interest in writing? Otherwise why are they there?
    I don’t think this is evangelical, but rather reasonable.

  3. It’s a simple model. Imagine you run a taxi company. All those expensive cars with licensed drivers. The VJ model is like selling the cars and buying a bunch of mopeds. You don’t need a license to drive one so now your entire workforce is out on the street.
    Mopeds are small, smelly and noisy but more intermit apparently and as long as its not raining and the customer doesn’t want a comfortable ride or is a family of four wanting to get to the airport think of the business you can attract…
    Actually it’s not a good metaphor as I think that would work better than VJ’s

  4. Actually, I think you are close.
    Imagine you own a coach company with 20 horses and fine carriages. Then along comes the car. Boy, you are gonna have a thousand reasons why you would not want to travel in a car, and it would be so much better to trust your travel to an experienced coachman.
    Nice argument.
    Doesn’t last long.
    Look around the channel.
    250 cameras and 250 edits.
    Makes it kind of pointless to start hiring camera crews at $1500 a day and more, doesn’t it.
    Fraid so.
    sorry, but as Walter used to say, ‘that’s the way it is’.

  5. Yes but you are an evangelist Michael – of course it seems reasonable to you.

    – everyone who works for a music company should be able to write music.

    Completely reasonable but totally loopy. Geddit?

  6. I am, it is true, both evangelist and quite dogmatic, but yes, I think that everyone who works for a music company should be able to write or play music. Why not? Otherwise, why are they are there, unless they have a passion for the business. And if they have that passion, they should be engaged to create content and participate. Otherwise they would be better off (and so would the music company) if they worked for an insurance company.

  7. dogmatic?

    exuberant, surely.

  8. ex·u·ber·ant
    1. effusively and almost uninhibitedly enthusiastic


  9. I worked for accounting and financing jobs more than 30 years. And reconstructed three bankruptcy companies successfully within a short period of time. My only method applied for was financial education, from top management to the staffs. Clear financial literacy, possessed by all the people within a company, can make a great change for corporate management.

  10. back in my youth I worked for a well known group of master criminals – The Arthur Andersen gang.

    I audited a fair few banks and insurance companies. Apart from one memorable experience with a credit controller from Bank Suisse I don’t recall a whole lot of passion.

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